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Research: SSD claims growth slowing and is due to demographics

“Too many misleading, sensationalized reports are aiming to paint Social Security Disability Insurance in a negative light, when in reality, the facts tell a truly positive story,” said the executive director of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives, or NOSSCR.

The organization has the facts to back it up, too. According to the latest data from the Social Security Administration, new claims for Social Security disability are hardly skyrocketing out of control. While the number is still growing, the speed of that growth has slowed for the second year in a row.

The number of new disabled workers the SSA’s actuaries had projected would be approved for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits in 2012 dropped by 38,000 over 2011 numbers, and the 2011 projections themselves declined by 28,000 over those for 2010. The actuaries expect the number of new beneficiaries will grow more slowly still over the coming years.

The percentage of applicants who actually end up approved for SSDI benefits has also been dropping. According to the NOSSCR, fewer than 40 percent of applicants are found eligible for the program, even after exhausting all appeals.

Moreover, a new study confirms what we’ve discussed before on this blog: the increase in people applying for Social Security disability has long been expected and is largely the result of the demographics. As the average age of members of the U.S. workforce rises, more SSDI applications are to be expected because aging contributes to disability risk.

The new study found that the number of disability claims has grown as the Baby Boom generation has reached an age where they are at substantially higher risk of becoming disabled. Additionally, population growth and the addition of women to the workforce over the past 50 years mean that more people were eligible for the program. These factors account for 94 percent of the growth in beneficiaries. At the same time, an increase in the Social Security retirement age has kept beneficiaries from transitioning as quickly into that program.

Basically, the Social Security disability program continues to produce the outcomes that were expected all along by government statisticians. It’s in no danger of an unstoppable, exponential expansion that will ultimately consume our federal budget. Instead, Social Security disability is an earned benefit all American workers pay into to avoid losing everything should disabling illness or injury keep them from working.

Source: National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives, “Newly Released Data Show Continued Slowdown in Growth of Social Security Disability Insurance,” Dec. 6, 2013

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